The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

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What is the significance of the title of O'Henry's story "The Gift of the Magi"?

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Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title does allude to the three wise men from the Bible, kings that come from far away to bring the Christ child gold, frankincense, and myrrh: expensive and precious gifts to honor him. However, at the end of the story, the narrator says of Jim and Della, "Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise. Everywhere they are the wise ones. They are the magi." Therefore, the title of the story doesn't simply allude to the original magi; the title actually refers to Jim and Della Young because they are the magi.

The narrator calls them the...

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"The Gift of the Magi" uses the symbolism of the three wise men who visit the Christ child bearing gifts.  In the same thought the representation in the title indicates to the reader that the Magi (wise men) visited Christ who Christians knew would one day be the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.

In the short story by O'Henry each person demonstrates their love for one another by sacraficing his own greatest posession.  For Della, her beautifl hair, is sacraficed to buy her husband, Jim, a gift that will show him how much she loves him.  Jim has one possession of value, a watch. He sacrifices the watch so that he can buy Della the gifts of the combs that she saw and had expressed a desire to have. 

The concept of Christianity once again emerges in the final section of the story.  It is the great act of love that has resulted in their sacrifices.  The gift of the Magi, love.

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